Complain to get noticed

24 August 2016
Author  
We get letters from time to time complaining about why we covered particular stories or what we wrote about a particular person in a story.
 
Many of them berate us for being ‘against’ a particular high ranked person or being on the ‘wrong’ side of an issue supported by our leaders in government.
 
As a credible, professional newspaper, we print what we vet to be true about people and issues in the public domain and interest.  To the best of our ability, we check sources, question the reporters, and challenge contradictions.
 
After we have ticked all of our editorial boxes we print (or not) the article.  When our esteemed readers send letters complaining that our newspaper is “disrespectful to our elders” or “need to leave [someone] alone,” we print these letters too, but we stand firm on our journalistic and editorial ethics and processes. 
 
When someone doesn’t like the facts we print, they have every right to say so.
 
But we’ve noticed a trend of complaints about news articles that come from people around those holding high office, that are insincere, do not identify which facts are in error and present no additional information refuting the facts stated.  We find that many letters like these are from those who are merely seeking to be noticed by those in high office. 
 
These people make noise about the media because they have aspirations of being ‘called’ for a high post or granted some sort of boon if they get ‘noticed.’  So, they make elaborate and showy public declarations of their loyalty to the powers-that-be and use the media as their foil.  This level of sycophancy is an unwarranted assault on independent media reporting and should not be encouraged. 
 
We take note that many leaders, prior to their current positions of power, were reported on fairly during their ascent to the responsible positions they hold now.  This media coverage is not done is exchange for posts, considerations or benefits, but because news of interest to the public needed to be published.  Once in public authority posts, that coverage may continue, not to ‘tear anyone down’ but to freely place information before the people.
 
Decision makers in responsible positions in Namibia must know that the media never has a mission to ‘destroy’ anyone, least of all those carrying heavy responsibilities and obligations to lead the nation. We are well aware that as they fall, the country can also take a negative hit and we in the media love our country as we play our important role in this democracy.
 

That said, we reject the notion that we must clap hands and say ‘hallelujah’ to anything done by our leaders and we challenge those who are in the power circles (or who desperately want to be) around our leaders to stop using complaints against the media as a tool to feather their own nests.  Come with solid, verifiable complaints about our articles and then we can talk. 
 
We will unapologetically use our editorial columns to opine about a range of topics that we believe are in the public interest and in sync with our editorial position.
 
Indeed, some factual stories that hit the headlines are embarrassing and could be hurtful to individuals or raise questions about the reputation of institutions.  We are not unmindful of this and it reminds us further of how important it is to be factual, ethical and fair when we publish our articles and opinion pieces.
 
We will not ‘sift’ through the facts and only print what pleases one person or a certain group versus another. 
 

Indeed we do make mistakes from time-to-time and while it stings a bit, we are prepared to accept all criticisms, check out the complaint and mitigate any unintended errors that may have been printed. 
 
There is a media ombudsman and watchdog organisation to address these issues.  The courts are there for lawsuits for libel and slander and this avenue can be used by any citizen at any time. 
 
There is a phalanx of editors in all partner members of the media and in each media house that are on the hunt for errors, faulty facts, uncorroborated statements and other challenges to media professionalism. 
 
We celebrate that Namibia has a credible free media and we welcome honest letters about what we write and how we write it. 
 
We are here for the public and take media integrity very seriously.
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WINDHOEK OBSERVER

The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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